This year’s freshman class, the largest in school history, is showing lower failure rates and a higher retention rate compared to previous classes — an important benchmark for the University as it strives to up its four-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2016.
The 2016 graduating class started the fall semester with 8,092 students and only 126 did not return for the spring semester, a retention rate of 98.5 percent.
David Laude, enrollment and graduation management provost, said the high rate is the best in the last five years — in part because of the University’s work to restructure large introductory level courses which may have caused incoming students to struggle in previous years. Laude references the Course Transformation Program, which began in spring 2010, and added more online material and digital education tools for students in these large, first-semester courses.
Laude also said improving the orientation experience helped students find organizations on campus to get involved with. Last summer, UT restructured its orientation program with four-year graduation rates in mind. Along with additional sessions at orientation, the University also extended a student’s meeting with their college from two-and-a-half hours to four.
“We did a much better job this year of creating community for the students and fewer students left for academic issues or from feeling homesick,” Laude said.
About 4.8 percent of the freshmen failed a class during their first semester, which is down from 9 percent five years ago.
In a statement, President William Powers Jr. said these numbers are encouraging.
“We’ll continue to track their success rate from each step on their journey to the next,” Powers said. “By being strategic and diligent in our work, I’m confident we’ll reach our graduation-rate goal.”
Laude said the retention rate is a positive sign toward reaching the University’s goal of improving four-year graduation rates to 70 percent by 2016. Four-year graduation rates are currently about 52 percent.